Sign In

Therapy dog visits children at home

April 1, 2020

These are difficult, anxious times for families holed up with small children. Ladd is here to help.

The service dog normally does his calming and comforting at North Arlington’s Zentai Martial Arts studio. But these days, Allen DePeña, owner and operator of Zentai Martial Arts, has been taking him around to his younger students’ homes to deliver bags full of slime and coloring pages and crayons.

“My idea was for him to go around to the kids and brighten up their days,” DePeña said. “I’ve had lots of conversations with families who are struggling, who have lost jobs or members of their family.”

DePeña has Ladd (formally known as Ladd III) sit on the doorstep while he remains farther back, adhering to social distancing rules. DePeña said he originally was just going to drop the bags on porches but thought a familiar furry face would lift kids’ spirits more.

DePeña said he received numerous messages from parents after he and Ladd dropped off the goodie bags. Parents told him that seeing Ladd put smiles on their faces and lifted their children’s moods.

“It’s very emotional, it’s very touching to see the level of impact he’s having on the families,” DePeña said.

Not only does Ladd bring treats for kids who can no longer attend martial arts classes at the studio, but he also helps the children at Zentai’s child care. Zentai has been licensed as a child care center for two years.

DePeña said that they are operating at 15% to 20% capacity because of social distancing. His wife, Naomy, a retired special needs teacher, is caring for at least 15 children. DePeña said they are the children of essential workers.

On Wednesday, Gov Phil Murphy told day care centers that unless they certify to the state that they are caring only for children of essential workers, they will have to be closed by April 1.

The DePeñas got Ladd on Valentine’s Day after a long application process that began two years ago. They were finally invited to a two-week training at Canine Companion for Independence’s campus and trained to work with Ladd.

“It could not have happened at a better time to have him be part of the community,” DePeña said. “Just because of everything going on right now and him being there for these kids.”

He has been very beneficial for the children at the child care center and is therapeutic for the children, DePeña said.

The DePeñas are also using Zoom, a video conferencing app, to provide free martial arts classes for children and bedtime stories. DePeña’s son helps out by teaching breathing and stretching techniques in the morning before school.

DePeña said it’s “amazing” to see the children interact during the virtual classes and that it has helped some shy children come out of their shells.

“Right now, one of our main concerns is keeping [children] physically active to help them not get too anxious or into a depressed state of mind,” DePeña said. “It can easily happen with all this cabin fever.”

COVID-19 and pets

The CDC has said there is no evidence that pets and other animals could be a source of the coronavirus but recommends practicing good hygiene when encountering them because they could carry other germs.

After petting or handling animals, their food, supplies and waste, people should wash their hands.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more